Page last updated at 10:54 GMT, Saturday, 28 June 2008 11:54 UK

Record numbers race round island

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The annual Round The Island Race has seen a record number of entries

A record number of competitors in nearly 1,800 boats have been taking part in one of the world's largest yacht races around the Isle of Wight.

Hundreds of sailors, including Formula One's Lewis Hamilton, set off on the Round the Island Race at 0600 BST.

Property developer Mike Slade broke his own monohull record, finishing in under four hours in his 100ft (30.5m) yacht.

Record-breaking round-the-world yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur was forced to abandon the Extreme 40 class race.

A rope to her main sail broke, meaning she could not continue.

She described having to pull out as "just one of those things", and said she would be back next year.

She came first in the Extreme 40 multihull class last year.

I'm looking forward to the start, no fixed start position, just all those boats fighting it out for the best space on the start line
Lewis Hamilton
This year's event has seen the highest number of entrants in the history of the race.

Organisers had hinted the current records for the monohull and multihull classes could be smashed this year due to 20-knot west to southwesterly winds.

Mr Slade also broke the record for a complete circumnavigation of the island, with a time of three hours, 56 minutes and three seconds.

Lea Bennett, of the Island Sailing Club and a representative of the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC), said: "It is a new record subject to ratification, which will take a couple of days."

Lewis Hamilton is onboard the record-breaking Open 60 Hugo Boss yacht with two of Britain's top sailors Alex Thomson and triple Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie.

Earlier, he said: "What a boat to go out for my first ever sailing race.

'Marathon of the sea'

"I'm looking forward to the start, no fixed start position, just all those boats fighting it out for the best space on the start line."

The race, which starts off the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, travels anti-clockwise around the island to The Needles, around St Catherine's Point and the Bembridge Ledge buoy, and then back into the Solent.

Lewis Hamilton onboard the record-breaking Open 60 Hugo Boss yacht
Formula One star Lewis Hamilton took part in the race (pic: onEdition)

Known as the "London Marathon of the sea", it sees Olympians and Paralympians taking part alongside ordinary leisure sailors.

A handicap system means a boat does not have to be first across the line to win the race.

This year, Team Origin in the Extreme 40 multihull class was the first boat passed the finishing line, with a time of less than three-and-a-half hours.

The first race took place in 1931 with 25 entries and was won by one of the smaller boats, the 22ft (6.7m) Cornish fishing boat Merry Conceit.




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